On vacation

I remember how awful it was to be a kid in school in June. In northeast Ohio where I grew up, however, school never went past June 12 or 15. It just didn't. Of course, no schools (few cars and even fewer homes) were air conditioned, either. No one could wait to get out of school. That's because summer vacation was the stuff dreams were made of.

Most kids didn't actually do all that much over summer vacation. But it was a chance to play outside all day, and stay up late enough to catch fireflies. The goal was to put a few in a jar and keep them at your bedside overnight until morning. We called them "lightning bugs."

I think the most wonderful thing about summer vacation was that it gave us all -- adults included -- a bit more chance to do the things we actually wanted to do over the rest of year. For some, that meant reading, for others more physical or social activity. Even if you weren't able to travel anywhere, there was the sense that you were getting away. Summer gave us all a change of pace, a feeling that the burdens or struggles of life were somehow less difficult to bear than they were during the rest of the year.

Over the past 15 or 20 years, summer has been my much needed relief from the hectic schedules our family keeps most of the year. There is less driving, less running around, and less bowing to the demands of the calendar. But now that our kids are older, and there are fewer of them at home for the summer, I'm wondering what there can be -- and what there should be -- more of. What can we do with the breathing room summer vacation gives us that we can't seem to fit in otherwise? There's a quick and easy answer. We can volunteer at Cor Unum in Lawrence, or another place where summer hands are needed to fill in for those who usually serve during the rest of the year.

Need does not take a summer vacation. Hunger and homelessness don't take a break. That's why our family will be taking a good look at the numerous opportunities there are to help. Christian service, after all, isn't optional. It is more than a requirement for something else, or a box we can somehow check off and be done with. Calling God "Our Father" means that we have lots of brothers and sisters to care for and about.

Certainly, I wish we could do more. And yes, I sometimes wonder whether how we spend our time and resources are the best choices we could make. In fact, I'm sure at times they are not. But none of that has to keep us from doing something while we can. We ought not to give up the little good we can do for the sake of the larger good we simply can't or won't.

So, for those of us who wish we could afford to spend a week or two vacation in some exotic or distant or otherwise desirable destination, maybe God has other summer plans for us. Perhaps if we focus on what we can do with the time we are given, we will find where and what we were meant to be. There are many of us who know we can't do everything. The question is whether we will do something.


Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.